These are words used to refer to people and things without using their names. Unlike English, Dhivehi has more registers for its pronouns, meaning there are several words for the same thing but they are used under different circumstances.
The following table shows the most commonly used Dhivehi pronouns and how formal they are.
First Person Words
Besides the ones given above, some less common ones that you might see/hear include:
- މަމެން – informal/standard, plural, used only in a few atolls
- އަހުރެން – standard/formal, singular, usually found in poetry
- އަފިރިން – standard, singular, used in Addu (the southernmost atoll)
- އަހަރުމެން – standard, plural, used just as frequently as އަހަރެމެން. In normal speech, it is difficult to tell the difference
Second Person Words
You may notice that there is no standard of saying ‘you’ (singular) in Dhivehi. This is not really a problem because, as you will find out, Dhivehi is a null subject language meaning that sentences do not require subjects to make sense. It can be inferred from context who is being spoken about.
Alternatively, if you want to say ‘you’, it is acceptable to use the person’s name. In fact it is quite common for Maldivians to speak in third person. You will often hear people use their own name instead of saying މަ or އަހަރެން when speaking about themselves. It may be a bit uncomfortable speaking this way at first if your native language does not work this way.
If you really desperately want a word for ‘you’, you can say ތީނަ which isn’t a word “officially” but people will still get what you are trying to say.
Other words for ‘you’
- ތަ – standard, singular, used only in a few atolls
- ތަމެން – standard, plural, used only in a few atolls
- ތިޔަ ބޭފުޅު – formal, singular
- ތިޔަ ބޭފުޅާ – formal, singular
- ތިޔަ ބޭފުޅުން – formal, plural
- ތިޔަ ބޭކަލުން – formal, plural
The formal words are rarely heard in everyday speech. They are more commonly found in writing. ބޭފުޅު refers to people of higher social status, but these words can be used to address people formally regardless of their social status.
Third Person Words
Like English, Dhivehi words do not have gender. Dhivehi goes a step further than English in that it does not differentiate male and female personal pronouns. އޭނާ and މީނާ both mean he or she. Dhivehi, however, does differentiate the words based on the proximity to the speaker. އޭނާ is used if the person is far away and މީނާ is used if the person if near. It is the same with އެމީހުން and މިމީހުން. You can think of މީނާ as ‘this guy (over here)’. މިމީހުން literally means ‘these people’ and އެމީހުން literally means “those people”.
A Note on Pronunciation
Although އޭނާ and މީނާ are spelt with ާ , people usually pronounce them as އޭނަ and މީނަ. You will also see them spelt this way occasionally, although the former spelling is more common.
The suffix މެން
You may have noticed this suffix being used to indicate plurality in a few of the pronouns. This suffix can also be attached to the end of a person’s name to indicate the meaning of “that person and the person/people associated with that person”. For example, އައިސްތުމެން could mean “Aisthu and her friend(s)”, “Aisthu and her family” or even “Aisthu and her co-worker(s)” depending on the context.
The same meaning could apply even if the suffix is used with a family word. For example, މަންމަމެން does not necessarily mean a group of mothers. It could be one mother and a group of people associated with her.
This suffix can be used in 1st, 2nd and 3rd person. So in the first example, Aisthu could be talking about herself and group of others, or someone could be talking to her, or people could be speaking about her.
Third Person Neuter
You learnt in the previous lesson that demonstrative pronouns are also used as third person neuter pronouns “it” and “they”. Just to refresh your memory, here are the demonstrative pronouns again.
While all of these can mean “it” or “they”, it is typically އޭތި and އެއެއްޗެހި which are used that way. This is because when people talk about “it”, the thing is usually in some unspecified location.